UC Davis Chancellor Gary May takes over, hopes to ‘move on to a new era’

UC Davis Chancellor Gary May talks about a lack of diversity in education

FILE - UC Davis Chancellor Gary May discusses why he believes colleges should have more diversity after his unanimous confirmation to the position by UC regents in early 2017.
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FILE - UC Davis Chancellor Gary May discusses why he believes colleges should have more diversity after his unanimous confirmation to the position by UC regents in early 2017.

Fall classes haven’t started yet at UC Davis, but Tuesday was the first day of school for new Chancellor Gary S. May.

May, 53, told reporters Tuesday that he wanted the university to move on from the controversy that surrounded former Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.

“My nature is to look forward, and I think that I can hopefully turn the page and move on to a new era,” May told reporters at the UC Davis Welcome Center. “I understand there were some challenges with the previous administration, but I think I can put those behind us and think about what the future holds for UC Davis.”

Previously the engineering dean at Georgia Tech, May was selected as the seventh chancellor of UC Davis by the UC Board of Regents in February. He will be paid $495,000 annually, which includes $75,000 raised privately for an endowed chair, making him one of the highest-paid chancellors in the system, based on UC records.

He assumes the chancellor’s office after Katehi, 63, resigned in August 2016 following months of controversy that culminated with a $1 million, four-month investigation launched by University of California President Janet Napolitano. She was granted a year of paid leave and is scheduled to return as a professor in September.

Earlier this year, May hosted Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and a group of Sacramento government and business officials on an Atlanta visit to tour Technology Square, a high-tech hub built through a partnership of Georgia Tech, Atlanta and industry. May said the district has transformed a low-income area of the city.

“I’m envisioning something similar here,” May said. “I’m hoping we have the right kind of enthusiasm about those ideas.”

Sacramento might not do exactly the same thing that is being done in Atlanta, but Steinberg says Atlanta’s Technology Square will be the inspiration. He said no one particular site is being considered. “I’d look at the entire city as an innovation hub, “ he said.

Steinberg said the Sacramento contingent was impressed with the respect May has earned at Georgia Tech and the way everyone there felt about him.

“He has a broad vision,” Steinberg said. “We are already off to a running start with him because of who he is and what he brings.”

May said he had no part in determining Katehi’s new faculty salary of $318,000 for nine months, a rate equivalent to her pay as chancellor. He said Tuesday he believes it is consistent with the pay of other professors of her stature. May said that Katehi is a member of the National Academy of Engineers and a well-known scholar in her field.

She will teach one class per quarter this school year and perform research, university officials told The Bee on Monday.

May has received $325,780 a year sitting on outside boards, a form of compensation that prompted criticism last year for Katehi.

He earned $288,280 in cash and stock in 2015 as a member of the board of Leidos, a Virginia-based defense and technology company, according to a public filing showing his compensation. May also earns $37,500 per year on the board of nonprofit Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, according to UC officials. Draper facilitates research in defense, technology and medicine.

Between UC and board compensation, May stands to earn more than $820,000 a year.

May has said that he intends to keep his board seats, but he does not plan to accept any more such positions – complying with a UC senior manager limit that regents imposed last summer.

“Board service and board seats among chancellors and leading faculty across the country are not uncommon,” he said Tuesday. “It’s a badge of honor if you will. It’s quite an honor for a corporation to invest in an individual to serve on their board.”

He said he was able to bring philanthropic gifts to Georgia Tech because of board seats he held. “I hope to continue to do the same thing for UC Davis,” he said.

May said he expects to spend a significant portion of his time, at least a third, raising funds for the university. “We have to seek other sources of funding and philanthropy is a key part of that,” he said.

May’s seats on the boards of defense corporations prompted a protest from students during an April visit to campus. May said he supports student protests and, as a student, demonstrated against apartheid. He said he might participate in protests again if he agrees with the cause.

“I think it’s an important part of development in the education process for our students,” he said.

May said he has started a “fairly aggressive” campaign to reach out to students and to make them feel good about his administration. He has met with student groups, held events at the chancellor’s home and used social media, among other things.

His message: “I am here. I am accessible and I want to hear from them and I want to meet them,” he said.

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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